Meet the contributors: The future of innovation in Alaska
Last week, we introduced you to some of the contributors behind Alaska Startups — but we want to know what they think about the future of innovation and entrepreneurship in the state.
Penny Gage: “I think the future of entrepreneurship in Alaska is heading upward on an exponential curve! While we've been going through a statewide recession, I think it's causing small business owners and entrepreneurs to re-think their strategies, push for a future they want and will create, and take the leap they might have only been thinking about for years. I've seen huge changes just in the last two years in this space as we become more connected to each other; learn from other cities, states, and countries; and see success among fellow entrepreneurs and innovators. Now, especially in a recession, is the time to fight for the kinds of communities we want to live in, and the types of businesses we own that support those communities.”
Peter Webley: “It is an exciting time. Alaska's entrepreneurial community is growing with many opportunities to join the innovation process at all levels, There are new emerging sectors in the State that can build upon the existing entrepreneurial activities and drive new innovation. It's about working together from the schools to the universities and with local businesses and community members to move forward and prosper as a State.”
Ross Johnston: “With a manufactured financial crisis by the current administration, some will take it as an opportunity to engage. Others will give up. With global warming and a potential global recession, now is not the time to give up.”
Gretchen Fauske: “Our world is changing rapidly — from how we communicate and consume goods to how we use resources and respond to our natural world — and we will need to be constantly innovating to keep up. Entrepreneurs are the people who are curious, nimble, and driven enough to capitalize on the opportunities this period of change presents. They are the ones who will build our economy and shape the future of Alaska and beyond.”
Nigel Sharp: “Alaska is following the trend nationally of increasing interest in innovation and entrepreneurial training and approaches. We have a rapidly growing ecosystem with consistently new faces showing up and taking home the prizes. We've got a greater shared startup vocabulary than ever before, and I'm conservatively confident that the current generation of Alaskan startups are going to outperform all those that preceded them.”
Ky Holland: “I've told folks in the last year that the Alaska startup ecosystem is "fragile." We have an amazing ecosystem that is competitive with any I've found in the world, literally; (Even Bolder has its issues!) but its not deep and its dependent on a small number of volunteers; with limited support by the State of Alaska, EDOs, existing corporations doing business in [Alaska] with their private venture capital and innovation needs, or alignment of University programs to feed the ecosystem.
The last couple [of] years have seen significant growth in the University's role including the BEI, OIPC and the Center ICE stimulating a culture of innovation. The resources we have include private investors, incubators, accelerators, pitch/idea events and an annual cycle of activities that can take an idea to a new venture with over $100K in a year... all elements of a modestly integrated system that any community would be envious to have. But our ecosystem is a risk because of the funding gaps in early seed-stage funding, the weak pipeline of new startups and limited current private corporate engagement.
Overall, the ecosystem is essential if we are going to create the new Alaska economy that builds on our resource extraction legacy and creates new value-added goods and services. I believe the focus needs to be "impact innovation," that is, aligning our startup ecosystem, current businesses and University with a focus on our most pressing challenges and turning them in to opportunities using the hundreds of millions of funds for projects as investment funds, and then take those opportunities and turn them in to Alaskan based solutions that have global business venture potential.”
Tasha Webster: “I believe that with open-minds and effective, inclusive strategies, the future of innovation and entrepreneurship here has [the] potential to become a robust and competitive marketplace.”